The North tried to launch a Musudan eight times last year during the Obama presidency, but most attempts failed. One launch that sent a missile 400 km (250 miles), more than half the distance to Japan, was considered a success by officials and experts in the South and the United States.
Sunday's launch comes a day after Trump held a summit meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and said he agreed to work to ensure strong defense against North Korea's threat. South Korea's presidential Blue House said a National Security Council meeting was called and chaired by President Park Geun-hye's top national security advisor.
One month ago, during his New Year speech, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said that the country was close to test-launching an intercontinental ballistic missile and state media said such a launch could come at any time, leading Trump to write on Twitter, “It won’t happen!” Trump did not give specifics of how he’d stop Kim’s missile development.
He may have to now.
At the time, Kim's comments prompted a vow of an “overwhelming” response from U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis. North Korea conducted two nuclear tests and a number of missile-related tests at an unprecedented rate since early last year and was seen by experts and officials to be making progress in its weapons capabilities.
If indeed today's launch is a “show of force” in response to the US hardline position, the entire world will be closely watching to see if Trump is about to fold again as he did on Friday, when he was called a “paper tiger” by China's media after reversing his position on the “One China” policy, and agreeing that he would not challenge China's legacy status with Taiwan.